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Instagram Algorithm Decoded: How Instagram Prioritizes Content

Instagram Algorithm Decoded Blog Header

Understanding Instagram's algorithm and how to use it to your advantage

Once upon a time, Instagram (and all other social channels, for that matter) showed you content from the accounts you followed in reverse chronological order. Those were the good old days, am I right? Wrong!

Do you know how hard it was for potential customers to find you on social before “Recommended For You” and “Similar to Posts You’ve Interacted With” came along? It was nearly impossible. So, before you shake your fists in the air and curse Instagram’s algorithm, let’s learn about the advantages of an algorithm-based feed.


Here’s the mysterious recipe— the Instagram Algorithm decoded. Now, you’ll be able to use this newfound knowledge to build a stronger content strategy.


What is the Instagram Algorithm?

First things first, we need to understand what an algorithm is. THEN, we can apply it to the social world.

Instagram Algorithm Decoded Definition

So, if an algorithm is a process in which something is calculated, how does that apply to the social space? Well, Instagram’s News Feed is the end result of its content dispersion algorithm. A very necessary component to the platform, I might add, now that more than 100 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram each day. The folks at Instagram’s headquarters developed a specific set of criteria used to filter, rank and organize all of those photos and videos uploaded to its platform. What is that criteria, you ask? Keep reading.

How Does it Work?

According to Instagram, the algorithm takes into account three main factors, which weight the system more than anything else. Note: Instagram actually invited a bunch of Tech Journalists to cover this topic! The following information is directly from Social Media TodayThose three elements are:

1. Interest

The algorithm determines how interested you will likely be in each individual post by factoring how much you’ve engaged with similar content in the past. For this, Instagram looks at how each user engages with image and video posts. Interestingly, the system will also assess the actual visual content of posts, facilitated by Instagram’s evolving image recognition tools.

2. Timeliness

Instagram also factors in when the post was published. Some users have complained that they’ve been seeing too much older content in their feeds, which Instagram recently rolled out an update to address.

3. Relationship

And the last major factor is your relationship with the post creator, based on how much you’ve engaged with them in the past. The factors used in this calculation could include common interactions, like comments and likes on each others’ posts, but also direct messages and post tags (i.e. if you’re commonly tagged in that person’s images and vice versa)

Instagram Algorithm Decoded Blog Image

Where Do I Go From Here?

Good question. An algorithm-driven social world can be scary to navigate, but there’s one word that stands out to me every single time Instagram coaches us on content. It’s even mentioned in two of the three criteria outlined above.


Engaging content is the key to success. And no, that does not simply mean posts that are pretty and get likes. We fall into that trap in our industry all the time, because, well— jewelry is pretty! Engaging posts get more than likes. They spark conversations in the comments, they generate clicks to your profile for more information, and they get shared with other users.

So, the next time you’re about to hit Post on Instagram, think about this: Is this just another beautiful photo? Or do you have more value to offer than that? I’m willing to bet you do.

Ask a question. Provide a tip. Make a joke. Tell a story. Be authentic.

When you do, the algorithm will reward you.

There you have it— the Instagram algorithm decoded! What tactics are helping you show up in the News Feed? Let us know in the comments down below.


Kristyn Shay

Enthusiast of all forms of social media, but Instagram is my go-to • Avid reader of science fiction • Know more Harry Potter spells than I care to admit • Possibly the single largest contributor to Community Coffee’s annual revenue • Lover of camping, hiking and sleeping under the stars